ST. CLOUD -- Middle and high school students in the St. Cloud Area School District will be allowed to wear hats and head coverings on a temporary basis.

At Wednesday night’s meeting, the school board voted unanimously to approve a suspension of the prohibition on headwear within the dress code policy for sixth through twelfth-grade students at North Junior High School, South Junior High School, Kennedy Community School, Tech High School, and Apollo High School for the final trimester which begins on March 14th.

The policy has been up for discussion since December, and the board voted not to change it on January 19th. In response, students threatened to hold walkouts and started petitions that garnered over 900 signatures online and in school.

Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Laurie Putnam brought the recommendation back to the board with feedback from both students and staff members. She says staff members were given a one-question survey as was requested by board members.

Fifty-six of licensed staff said they would prefer to pause the head covering prohibition, and 44 percent said they would keep the prohibition in place for trimester three.

Students from Tech and Apollo also joined the nearly hour-long discussion with the board to share their perspectives. They argued the policy no longer reflects community standards, blocks self-expression, and is affecting the learning environment by causing students to skip class, show up late, or fail to complete assignments. They also said valuable class time is wasted when teachers have to confront students about their hats or hoods.

Putnam and the students also argued against the previous concerns from board and community members that changing the policy would result in more bullying.

If that's the choice that we are going to make, we will find a difference, so I don't think that students are going to be bullied or harassed or targeted by choosing not to wear any sort of head covering. I think that students will find a way. If they want to target somebody, they will find a way.

Putnam says the district will monitor the trial period by tracking office referrals from conflicts over headwear, looking at any significant trends in attendance, and taking an in-depth survey of students and staff at the end of the school year. The policy will return to the board as part of the student handbook review in May or June.

Within the district, McKinley-ALC is the only school that does not currently prohibit head coverings as part of its dress code.

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